March 04, 2013

For Premium Content, Google Turns to WebM and HTML5

Premium offerings abound on Google (News Alert) properties, whether found on YouTube or in Google Play. But Google recently started to make some quiet shifts in the way it presents these premium offerings, moving them to its WebM video format. This migration marks what Google believes is the first to do such a thing, and the addition of HTML5 makes the migration even more impressive overall.

While Google isn’t making much fanfare related to the move, the move is happening nonetheless, as reported by John Luther, Google’s WebM product manager during a developer Hangout back on Wednesday. The move is somewhat gradual in nature, limited mainly to YouTube (NewsAlert) and Google Play premium items found on Chromebooks. Luther explained in the Hangout that the rollout would expand to other devices running Chrome as well as to other platforms in the coming days.

The move actually represents some major steps; Google had to put quite a bit of work, according to Luther, into the security layer that allowed for encrypting videos sent to an HTML5 player. In fact, there was so much work involved that Luther believed that Google was the first such company to do something like that. WebM was also meant to be an open, royalty-free alternative to H.264, but most videos are still delivered in that codec rather than other alternatives, and likely would be for some time to come. However, Google is rapidly working on VP9, which would not only offer significant improvement over VP8, but was also rapidly coming together, making it likely to be the alternative of the future, and the not too distant future at that. If WebM proves to have the same kind of impact as WebP, which Google has already been using on its images to the tune of terabytes worth of bandwidth savings, then we may well be looking at a major new paradigm on tap in terms of online video.

While no one’s sure just how long it will take Google to roll out VP9, it’s likely to step up the overall accessibility of video online. Given the sheer amount of video already located online, and the sheer amount of video that has yet to make the transition to online venues, there’s plenty of room for improvement in a market that’s already substantial in its own right. Online video is likely to be a big deal for some time to come, and Google should prove to be right in the vanguard in terms of getting it out into play.


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